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Winston Churchill's hope for a united Ireland: You must get those fellows in the North in, though you can't do it by force

Winston Churchill spoke of his hopes for a united Ireland in 1946.

Churchill who led Britain through the second world war, spoke to Irish Ambassador John W Dulanty of his warm feelings for Ireland stating there "is not, and never was, any bitterness in my heart towards your country".

It came just one year after his criticism of Taoiseach Eamon de Valera with his fury over the neutral role Ireland had played during WW2.

The exchange happened just after the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in London during which the Irish diplomat laid a wreath in memory to the fallen of the two world wars .

Dulanty's notes on the conversation have just been made public by the Irish Times.

After the 1946 event in a confidential report to the secretary of the department of external affairs Frederick Boland, Dulanty recorded that as he was leaving, he was approached by Churchill, then leader of the opposition, to say he was glad to see him there.

Churchill said:  “I said a few words in parliament the other day about your country because I still hope for a united Ireland. You must get those fellows in the North in, though; you can’t do it by force.”

Before saying goodbye and going off to greet the king, Churchill told Dulanty: “There is not, and never was, any bitterness in my heart towards your country.”

Just before Churchill began his second term as prime minister in May 1951 he had a conversation about Ireland with Frederick Boland, who had succeeded Dulanty as ambassador in London.

 When they met at a reception at Buckingham Palace, Churchill told Boland he had been thinking of coming over to Ireland to see a horse which he had bought run in the Irish Derby but the horse had died of heart failure.

Churchill went on: “I’m sorry. I would have liked to have gone over and I’m sure the people would have given me a good reception – particularly if my horse had won. The Irish are a sporting people.

“You know I have had many invitations to visit Ulster but I have refused them all. I don’t want to go there at all, I would much rather go to southern Ireland. Maybe I’ll buy another horse with an entry in the Irish Derby.”

Writing the morning after the reception at the palace, Boland said these were the actual words Churchill had said to him as far as he could remember them.

Some of Churchill’s earliest and happiest childhood memories were of the time he spent living in what is now Áras an Uachtaráin, where his father Randolph acted as private secretary to his grandfather the Duke of Marlborough, lord lieutenant of Ireland from 1876 to 1880.

In 1912 Churchill had supported Home Rule as part of the Liberal government of the time.

He was met by a hostile reception in Belfast and Larne when he came to Celtic Park to speak in support of the Home Rule Bill.

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